The Detroit Lions season is—by all accounts—over. Though a 10-win season is mathematically still possible with a 7-0 run in the final stretch of the season, it’s not happening. Any small hopes of streak in the face of a easing schedule were dashed on Soldier Field when the Matthew Stafford-less Lions let Mitchell Trubisky dig their 2019 grave.
When the Lions hired Matt Patricia, it was a statement that mediocrity was no longer acceptable in Detroit. This team needed to take the next step because playoff appearances every other year were no longer acceptable. General manager Bob Quinn and owner Martha Ford demanded more from this franchise.
But the Lions have clearly regressed from the Jim Caldwell era. For two straight seasons now, the Lions will be playing meaningless football in December and the majority of November. This is not Jim Caldwell bad. This is not even Jim Schwartz bad. We’re teetering on Matt Millen bad.
The Lions are 3-5-1, last place in the NFC North and in the conversation for a bottom-three team in the conference. Patricia, the defensive-minded coach, is leading a defensive unit that can’t even stop a quarterback struggling at every level and suffering from an identity crisis.
This isn’t a call for firing everyone or a shot across Patricia’s bow. This is just an acknowledgement of where this franchise is currently at. They’ve made progress in certain aspects of their game, but they’re undoubtedly worse than where they were two years ago.
I get it. A full cultural shift takes time. It’s even going to cause the team to lose some fan favorites in Quandre Diggs—and let’s be honest, the writing seems to be on the wall for Darius Slay, too. And the Lions haven’t exactly had the best luck with injuries. Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Mike Daniels, Kerryon Johnson and now Matthew Stafford have missed key games.
But Patricia has had two full offseasons to get coaches, players and the depth he wants. The Lions went out and gave him two, big shiny objects on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, and that unit has only regressed this year. Jarrad Davis wasn’t magically fixed, the Lions’ pass rush is even worse off than it was last year, and the chemistry between the front and back ends of this defense have resulted in disaster.
What happens in the next seven games is mostly irrelevant. It doesn’t seem likely Patricia’s job will be in danger just two years into his reign. And even if the Lions manage a defensive turnaround, it won’t inspire much confidence going forward. The Lions did that in 2018, and while it provided some optimism going into this year, the Lions clearly didn’t carry over that momentum into 2019. We won’t get fooled again.
So what does this all mean? Well, with another Lions season wrapped before Thanksgiving, it means Patricia’s honeymoon is over. He has no more slack left in his rope. 2020 better be one helluva season for the Detroit Lions or the disposal of Jim Caldwell was a decision made in vain.